Daring to be different



By Teresa Rehman

It was an unusual sight at the Nagaon Police Reserve Auditorium recently. Dressed in their best attire, leading citizens of this district in Assam thronged the auditorium – some burst into gales of laughter, some engaged in serious political discussions, some caught up with old friends, some tried to huddle together to click a selfie with the young police officer Shankar Raimedhi who had hosted a Bada Khana for them.

Shankar Raimedhi speaking on the occasion of the Bada Khana

The bonhomie was obvious at the Bada Khana. The steaming hot meal warmed many hearts. Raimedhi, who is presently posted as the Superintendent of Police (SP) explains, “It is an old tradition wherein members of the force across all ranks dine together on special occasions.” The main idea behind a Bada Khana is to increase synergy across ranks and present an opportunity for everybody to bond and celebrate certain occasions together. It is quite common in the Army and Paramilitary forces.   

Raimedhi already has a reputation for daring to be different. Brimming with ideas, this young IPS officer decided to organise a Police-Public Bada Khana, probably for the first time in the recorded history of Assam. The prudent officer invited members from the medical and academic community, leaders of various student and socio cultural organisations, members of the business community, officers of civil and forest administration, Village Defence Party heads, Officer incharge of Police Stations and incharge of Outposts and all ranks of the force including constables and home guards. More than 800 people attended the Bada Khana

The bada khana which was held on 18th August in Nagaon Police Reserve Auditorium was unique in the sense that not only did it have officers and men across all ranks but it saw large participation from members of the public. Raimedhi was also celebrating the Union Home Minister’s Medal for Excellence in Investigation 2019 that was awarded to his team for the successful investigation in the infamous Batadrawa gangrape and murder case of a 12-year-old girl. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) filed the chargesheet within 33 days of the crime and the Fast Track Court found the accused guilty and the main accused was awarded death penalty. As this Medal was in recognition of the hard work in this landmark case, it brought a lot of joy to both Police and Public alike. “A lot of members of the common public, leaders of student organisations, members of the print and electronic media reached out and congratulated the Police. Then we thought that a Police Public Bada Khana might help further boost the relationship between police and public and hence the meet,” said Raimedhi.

And this is just the beginning. Raimedhi’s astute choices show clear signs of his plans for the future to bring the police closer to the public. “We are trying our best to remain accessible to the common public. As officers we all try our best to pick up all calls, reply to queries through SMS or Whatsapp and create a prompt and responsive Police Force,” he said.

There are many constraints. Often Police Stations are not able to match the expectations of the public. But this does not deter the dynamic cop. He said, “Since I am a student of Economics, I keep telling my juniors especially in the Police Stations that we will have to maximize our performance subject to the constraints at hand.” Incidentally, Raimedhi has also completed his M Phil in International Political Economy from the Centre for European Studies, JNU.

A lot is improving in terms of both infrastructure as well as recruitment and Raimedhi is hopeful that he will be able to deliver better public service in the days to come. Tech-savvy and suave, he is using social media as well to reach out to the masses. “Our Social Media presence has increased tremendously and our Facebook Page ‘Nagaon Arokhi’ is both widely shared and getting more than 1K likes on a regular basis. This has helped greatly in improving our communication and get valuable feedback,” he added.

He doesn’t agree that there is so much fear of the police now. He feels that the image of Assam Police has improved tremendously in the last few years. Due to the improvement of the insurgency scenario over the last few years they have been able to concentrate more of attention and resources towards investigation and public service delivery like passport and general verification. “I still believe that Assam is one of the few states in the country where any member of the public can approach the Police Station and get his case registered even against the high and mighty. Though by all means I admit that there certainly are issues at hand and areas where we have to improve,” he said. 

This GenNext police officer feels that social media is the most powerful medium currently available for making Policing interactive. “The recent success and achievements of Assam Police is known to all. I get calls from my friends from Singapore, Delhi, London etc appreciating the wit and humour laced social messaging of Assam Police,” he said.

He leans back with a surge of confidence. His top priority now is to improve better police public relations. The Bada Khana was one such effort in the many efforts that they are planning. Nagaon Police is also planning a Drug Deaddiction Helpline and have also roped in a Clinical Psychologist to help help the addicts. He is also planning a ‘Know Your Police’ programme where young school and college children will be given a tour of the SP Office. He plans an informal interaction with them in a friendly environment, raise awareness regarding relevant issues like cyber bullying and drug addiction.  With officers like Raimedhi at the helm, we can expect more such Bada Khanas and the neighbourhood cop will no longer be a dreaded figure.